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Is Anarchism possible? Show more Show less
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Anarchism describes a diverse range of political and philosophical beliefs, ranging from the individualism of anarcho-capitalism to the communitarianism of anarcho-syndicalism. However, they hold in common a belief in the primacy of freedom: the individual's ability to act according to their conscience, without coercion from or subjugation to an oppressive authority. Often, this authority is identified with the state, along with other hierarchical organisations, both secular and religious. Anarchism has long been derided and dismissed as fanciful and unworkable, even incoherent -- yet throughout history there have been serious attempts to build free societies, organised on the principles of horizontalism, participatory democracy, and mutual aid. Is a free future at all likely for humankind, or are Anarchists just 'demanding the impossible'?

Anarchism is currently possible. Show more Show less

Historical and contemporary attempts to create large-scale Anarchist societies have been largely successful.
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Rojava proves that Anarchist principles can be possible in a modern society.

The Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria is organised along libertarian-socialist and anarchist lines, and continues to expand despite immense external pressure from Syria, Turkey, Russia, and Islamic State.

Context

The Syrian civil war began on March 15 2011 with civil unrest in Damascus and Aleppo as part of the wider Arab Spring. Of the several factions involved in the conflict, the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces have emerged as one of the most successful alliances. From 2015 to 2019, they acted as the main ground force in the US-backed war against Islamic State, and were largely victorious in driving Daesh from its strongholds in northeastern Syria, consolidating their position north of the Euphrates. Despite the Turkish-led incursion in October 2019 after the withdrawal of U.S. troops on the Syrian border, as well as continued hostilities with the Russian-backed Assad government, the SDF continues to control an area of 50,000 square kilometres and a population of over 2 million. This territory has been organised into the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (also known as Rojava), a federation of self-governing sub-regions. Owing to the political origins of the SDF in the left-wing PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party), the administration claims to be a democratic polity with a libertarian socialist, anarchistic ideology.

The Argument

Rojava demonstrates that anarchism is possible in modern society. While not strictly nor typically anarchist, the community exists with the guiding principles of anarchist philosophy. Rojava has a decentralized and largely egalitarian form of government while lacking an inner hierarchy. The community strives for gender equality and tolerance for all races, religions, and politics. Given this ambitious system of beliefs, it is remarkable that such a nation/community can exist in one of the most conservative regions in the world. The Middle East is fraught with both racial and ethnic conflicts, which makes the tolerance for all groups within Rojava remarkable. Since the ratification of their constitution in 2014, Rojava has had to stave off offensives from the Turkish military as Turkey seeks to hinder the nation’s growth.[1] Rojava has likewise strived in war against ISIL, even forming an alliance with the United States against the terrorist organization in 2015. [2] Of all their principles, perhaps most radical is their fight for gender equality. The surrounding nations–and even some of the religions which are practiced amongst the people of Rojava–are notorious for being misogynistic and viewing women as less than men. In Rojava, women play an equal role in society as men. Women must be elected alongside men as council members and they also can serve in an all-female militia known as the Women’s Protection Units. Given the decentralized government and lack of involuntary hierarchy, Rojava is a suitable example of modern anarchism. With its ideals of equality and placing power in the hands of the people, Rojava is striving to be a utopia in the middle of one of the most violent regions in the world.

Counter arguments

Criticism raised against Rojava argues that Rojava was not actually an anarchist society from its initiation. Many Western anarchist critics applaud the nation’s striving for equality and a government without hierarchy, but argue that the nation does not actually follow anarchist principles a la Murray Bookchin (popular anarchist philosopher). For example, the presence of a government power isn’t a characteristic of true anarchy. Other criticisms are directed towards the nation's use of women in the militia and what some perceive as forced enlisting into service. Rojava does not demonstrate that anarchism is possible in modern society. Chiefly, Rojava has recently had to face Turkish attacks upon the United States’ exit from the area in October 2019. These attacks have curbed the society and hindered their success as an anarchist nation. While nations such as Turkey still pose a threat to Rojava, it will be impossible for Rojava to wholly focus on becoming a true anarchist nation. If Rojava adhered to more of the anarchist qualities, it would be an anarchist community. Instead, it could be defined as a cult or just a human rights group. Therefore, anarchy does not exist today like it did in the past. It’s become more constructive and complicated.

Proponents

Premises

[P1] The Rojava community is an example of modern-day anarchy. [P2] The Rojava fought well against Turkish attacks, meaning it can function with a good military.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P1] The Rojava community is not an accurate representation of an anarchist community because of the presence of a government. [Rejecting P2] The Rojava’s growth as an independent society was negatively impacted by the Turkish attacks.

References

  1. https://www.redpepper.org.uk/the-rojava-revolution-was-made-by-a-struggling-people-not-american-bombs/
  2. https://www.nybooks.com/daily/2019/04/04/report-from-rojava-what-the-west-owes-its-best-ally-against-isis/

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This page was last edited on Friday, 10 Jul 2020 at 16:11 UTC

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